Melbourne City was handed a second straight defeat thanks to a late Mariners goal on a warm Sunday evening in Gosford.
Steven Ugarkovic struck in the second half to draw us back to 1-1 before the hosts found the winner in the 88th minute.
Aurelio Vidmar made two changes from Unite Round, Jordon Hall’s first appearance of the season replacing an injured Samuel Souprayen (groin) in defence.
Ben Mazzeo was the other inclusion, capping off a big week after signing his first professional contract with a second start of his career.
Nuno Reis missed with his wife expecting the birth of their third child, while Zane Schreiber was named on the bench after missing recent weeks with a knee injury.
Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 18. Jordon HALL, 22. Curtis GOOD, 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 8. Hamza SAKHI, 21. Alessandro LOPANE, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 46. Ben MAZZEO, 11. Leo NATEL, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).
Substitutes: 33. Patrick BEACH (GK), 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 15. Andrew NABBOUT, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 35. Zane SCHREIBER, 37. Max CAPUTO, 38. Harry POLITIDIS.
City kicked off the clash in the scorching Gosford heat, and much of the early possession went our way, as did the first chances to Ben Mazzeo and Tolgay Arslan.
Our defence shut down any early counter from the Central Coast, with Young secure even when thundered into by Alou Koul who challenged for the ball inside the six-yard box just before the first drinks break of the game.
City kept pushing through with good buildup, and Leo Natel had our first big test of keeper Danny Vukovic with a strong strike from the edge of the box taking a deflection and falling into his hands.
A quick counter had Alou Kuol through on goal but Young stood his ground, making a great stop before a follow-up ball went off the crossbar and was cleared away by our defence.
Hall made a perfectly timed block to deny Kuol again close to the goal line, showing some strong defensive nous.
The second half started with Andrew Nabbout entering the fray, and Jamie Maclaren was almost found by him within moments for the first chance of the second stanza.
The Mariners would break the deadlock through Christian Theoharous in the 50th minute though after he was well found by Josh Nisbet.
It was almost an instant equaliser as Maclaren forced a goal-line save from Vukovic after Nabbout placed the ball to the back post with precision.
A series of successive corners kept the pressure on the home side, with Nabbout and Maclaren hitting high-quality shots from close range that couldn’t quite break through.
The boys never let up, with the Mariners barely hanging onto their lead as our substitutes brought a fresh energy to the clash.
Nabbout and Maclaren kept adding shots to the total and several forward forays ended in last-ditch defensive efforts.
A clearance fell the way of Steven Ugarkovic and the super-sub broke through the Mariners defence to equalise with a low-driven shot into the bottom corner from outside the box.
The appetite wasn’t quenched as Maclaren searched for the go-ahead goal with a chip that looped just over the crossbar in the following minutes.
Both teams searched for the lead, but it was Angel Torres who scored the winner late on with a sliding ball from a quick break.
The pushing never stopped as the search for a second equaliser went on right until the final whistle, emotions boiling over on the touchline in the dying moments.
We will look to bounce back at AAMI Park this week with the boys in action in the second leg of a Thursday night doubleheader against Adelaide United.